Mentor, coach or therapist — maybe all three. (Revisited from a previous post)
Sometimes it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel or to create strategies for executing change on your own. Getting the help from a mentor, career coach or therapist can make a huge difference in the outcomes you get. When you have difficulty navigating past or through issues, there are many reasons to request assistance. Depending on the issue, you may need help from a mentor, coach or therapist — or all three. It’s important to know whom to ask and to have realistic expectations for the possible outcomes from each interaction. Your motivation can be a strong desire to fix something, yet the type of assistance you request and ultimately receive may be very different from each of these sources.
No one has a magic wand.
Coach, mentor or therapist? Two constants in life are that no one can solve your problems for you and no one has a magic wand. Whether you are seeking advice from a coach, mentor or therapist, your full participation and commitment is required to make progress toward your goal. Your willingness to learn and change your behavior and/or approach is also critical to your ultimate success. Valuable guidance typically comes with a price. It may be a financial cost for services from a coach or therapist and undoubtedly will require an investment of time. If you are ready to get the help you need, then it is time to evaluate who is available and what you need from them.
Find a mentor. Mentors can come in many forms. They can be someone you work for or with, or it can be part of the role of a hired coach, depending on what you need to learn or gain. A mentor can be someone you know well, or you can ask for an introduction to someone you don’t know well. The role of an unpaid “mentor” vs. a paid coach has subtle differences. Free advice is not always better or more available. Don’t take help from a mentor for granted and don’t make assumptions. It’s important to review their background and experience to know if they can provide what you hope to gain. Then talk to them about what they are prepared to offer.
Based on their experience and how relevant it is, you can then agree on how the relationship will work. Your mentor is an unpaid resource, so it’s important to show them respect for their time and input. It’s also important to establish boundaries. You don’t want to overstep boundaries or burn a bridge.
Obtain the services of a coach. Coaches come in all forms and with a number of specialties. Life coaches may address more than employment issues, and career coaches may ultimately address some personal issues in your life that impact your work, to some degree. A coach’s area of focus, approach, availability and rates are some very basic points to cover.
Discussing style, personality and a demonstrated commitment to your success may take more time and are also very important. As a coach, I can initially describe my style to a new client, but how interactions play out over time may look different to everyone. Clients referred to me through a recommendation from a trusted source who has a long-term relationship with me are more aware of what I can actually do to help them. It also works well when the referring source knows the person in need of help well enough to provide the right recommendation. Optimally, a referral can be a safer route than relying on a fancy website.
Nothing’s working? Get a therapist! I learned long ago that I can only be a good coach to someone who is able and willing to make a change. I run across issues that symptomatically show there is something deeper in the way than what we may be superficially dealing with. In recent years, the rise in mental health issues has become apparent. Many more people are visibly struggling. In those cases, I recommend that my clients enlist the help of a trained professional. They can dig into the root cause of certain behaviors to help them enact long-lasting change. I continue to work with them on strategies for addressing issues at work and developing plans for achieving their goals. This allows the therapist to work on the deep-rooted issues that create stumbling blocks for meeting the commitments we’ve set.
Don’t confuse the roles. A therapist can help to resolve roadblocks that are in the way of making progress toward your goals. A career coach focuses on the market and the techniques required to successfully pursue your employment goals. Taking advice from the therapist on employment choices can be problematic. They are not typically market experts. Relatedly, don’t expect your career coach to know why you engage in behavior that looks like self-sabotage. Similarly, a mentor will have a specific area of expertise. If you they don’t know you well don’t assume they can automatically advise you on a career direction. To make that call, they would need to be aware of all the personal issues that could ultimately derail you. It is important to be as transparent as possible and aware of each person’s capabilities.
No one has all the answers.
No one has all the answers, and it’s not much fun feeling like you’re alone on an island. It’s my belief that we are all stronger when we face issues with the support of a community. Working with a team also makes it easier to tackle challenges and keep moving forward on all fronts. Feeling like you want a change, need a change and are ready for a change? then it’s time to start investigating ways to get the help you need to get started.
For more career advice, check out my Making the Most of a Mentoring Relationship, and Conflict Resolution webinars and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.